I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mark Straton the Senior Vice President of Product Marketing at Siemens about his thoughts on unified communications and where the telecom market is headed. Straton spent the early part of the conversation talking about Microsoft’s vision.
This vision in his words is basically that the first generation of VoIP solutions were tied to hardware but now you can overlay the communications software and migrate to a fully software-based approach. It should be noted the Siemens VP agrees with this vision.
But he argues that Microsoft has started to put walls around their systems. He says other providers must operate within this environment.
Straton thinks there needs to be an open approach to UC and one vendor cannot provide everything – we need flexibility he says.
Straton mentions to scale such a solution is a very difficult task… He points to the decades of telecom development embodied in the HiPath 8000 from people who are communications experts.
At this moment he took the opportunity to explain the fact that HiPath sales are rapidly accelerating at a number of major Fortune class organizations including the deployment of a massive hosted solution provided by Global Crossing in the UK. When queried about why the systems are selling better than ever, Straton points to the latest version 3.0 which has a laundry list of major features such as network optimization, unified communications, end-to-end video, FMC and call center support.
I asked Straton about the difference between Microsoft and Siemens as Microsoft also says they work with other vendors just like Siemens. To this he replied, “Work or dictate?” which I must admit caught me off guard.
He contrasted this to IBM who he says has a much more open approach.
It was at this point a surprising fact emerged… Siemens is the largest enterprise Microsoft customer in the world which of course puts Siemens and Microsoft in an interesting competitive situation.
I asked Mark about the Nortel/
IBM Microsoft relationship and he said this is a bit like letting the fox in the henhouse.
In the near future we can expect to see an SMB unified communications device from Siemens geared towards 20-150 users. The system will have wireless support built-in but will need external access points to function as a true dual mode solution.
Certainly this was an interesting conversation as most executives are scared of going public with comments that are less than complimentary towards the Redmond-based software giant. Then again, most people don’t work at companies which are on the top of Microsoft’s customer list.
At the end of the conversation Straton took a moment to remind me how in certain respects Siemens and Microsoft have a similar communications vision. He said, “He believes a truly successful UC solution needs to start with a software approach and not a hardware one.”